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On e-Reader Tech News we track down the latest e-Reader news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great e-reader tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest devices and accessories.

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Competition mounts with the speculation of a light enabled Kindle

It was announced last week that Amazon is already working on adding a light into its next generation Kindle.  Not having a built in light has been one of the big drawbacks for e-ink e-readers.  Easy to read in sunlight?  Awesome!  But what about at night in bed or on a long car ride?

The speculation is that the lighting will be a softer “frontlit” type of lighting.  It is designed to be easier on the eyes than its LCD counterparts.  That way the ligthing will still fulfill the promise of longer battery life and comfortable reading.

Usually when one e-reader company gets a bright idea, the others quickly follow suit.  Last year’s big thing was touchscreen e-ink.  There are already posts floating around that hint on a Nook counterpart to the new lighted Kindle.

This year’s big e-ink feature is shaping up to be light.  Will next year’s be color?  Not sure if color e-ink will be ready for a debut that soon, but you never know.  Technology seems to be evolving faster and faster with each passing year.

When the lighted Kindle comes out, the competition will not only be among the major e-readers, but within Amazon’s product line itself.

It probably won’t even matter in the long run, but by including a built in light, Amazon will be killing off Kindle light accessories and Amazon’s own Kindle Lighted Cover.  As I said, this matter will probably be pretty insignificant in the scheme of the things because for awhile yet, there will still be owners of the older models.  Then, eventually the accessories will be redesigned to suit the needs of the newer Kindle generations.

So, e-ink devices have not succombed to tablets yet.  They still have some major potential that can help them stay in the game.

 

What the Future Means for E-Readers

The tablet market is off and running and the Kindle Fire is doing very well. I have often wondered what the future of the original e-reader will look like.  Now that the Kindle, Nook, and Kobo e-readers are all touchscreen, what is the next big update?

I’m not saying they’re perfect by any means.  The page transitions could be smoother, and the page turn buttons could be arranged a little better to make things more comfortable for lefties.  Then of course, there’s always the potential for faster browsing in the Amazon Store.

Right now to me at least, my Kindle and iPad serve completely different purposes.  I have tried reading a book on both an iPad and Kindle Fire, and the screen is just too bright for me to read for a long time.  My Kindle Touch isn’t really a gadget to me that I feel like I need to separate myself from like the computer or phone.

A hybrid tablet and e-reader has been mentioned in the past, and I think this is most likely what will happen.  The trick is designing one that can create the same effect that both an e-reader and a tablet can.  I’m not exactly sure how far off this possibility is, but it would be nice to be about to just carry around one device that does multiple things.  At the same time though, if that device is stolen, you lose everything.

With the Kindle Fire out now, I’m not sure I really see a point in creating a color e-ink Kindle.  Most books, regardless of whether they are print and electronic don’t use much color.  I can see it being used for highlights and annotations, but how high is the demand for that?

In the short term, I would love to see a light built into the Kindle.  I don’t mean a backlight necessarily, but perhaps a light that is built in at the top that can flip in and out when needed.  There are a number of good clip on lights available, but having one that fits seamlessly into the device would be ideal.

E-readers are continuing to show strong sales, and now that the prices are lower than ever, many more consumers are able to jump on the e-reader bandwagon.  In the next year or two at least, I think e-readers like the Kindle and Kindle Touch will draw sales from these new consumers.

Looking ahead 5 years or so, I predict that the hybrid e-reader/tablet will emerge and take a share in the market.  But who knows, there may be something completely different around to shake things up.  Technology progresses incredibly fast these days.  To say the pace of technology competition and updates are overwhelming is a major understatement.

Kindle Comparison By Screen Contrast

With Kindle 4 being released, some people on forums started arguing whether Pearl eInk screen is the same in $99 Kindle Keyboard and $79 Kindle 4 “Non-Touch”. Both sides have posted side-by-side photos to support their claims. Having recently obtained a Spyder 3 Print SR colorimeter for purposes of calibrating my printer I decided to do my own research.

Telling whether two colors are the same or not is a tricky business. Lighting, our eyes and brain can play tricks on us that can be best illustrated by this short video.

Different colors may appear the same under different lighting conditions or if they are positioned in a certain way. The opposite can also be true. The biggest factor is the context – what is around objects that we try to color-match. It can make things appear darker or lighter or even change tint. This is where precision colorimeters come in. Precision colorimeter is a device that contains calibrated light source and calibrated color sensor that measures color of a very small spot on an object. This eliminates effects of external lighting and takes our eyes out of the equation. It produces 3 numbers “L”, “a” and “b” that precisely identify a color regardless of its origin or context. “L” stands for lightness. It measures how bright the color is. This is what one would care the most when evaluating grayscale device such as Kindle. “a” and “b” contain information about color – whether it is green or blue. Ideal neutral gray color has both “a” and “b” equal zero.

In the past I did some very crude measurements to compare Kindle 2 and Kindle 3 with my DSLR by trying to keep lighting consistent across exposures. This time I used the Spyder colorimeter to compare Kindle 4 and Kindle 3. I also threw Kindle 2 and Kindle 1 I had in the mix to gather more data and validate my DSLR measurements. I created 16 PNG files that contain monotonous squares ranging from #000000 to #ffffff with #111111 as a step. I copied these files on Kindle devices and measured each square with colorimeter. To make results consistent I refreshed the screen by pressing Alt-G before each measurement (Keyboard+Back on Kindle 4). If I weren’t lazy I would measure each color multiple times and average out the results. However after some testing I found little variation in measurements of the same color so I let it slide. Below is the table with measurement results and a graph to illustrate it.

Kindle 4
Kindle 3
Kindle 2
Kindle 1
L a b L a b L a b L a b
00        17.87        (0.74)        (3.91)        18.17        (1.18)        (3.16)        22.67        (1.30)        (2.07)        28.52        (1.17)        (2.59)
11        20.22        (1.10)        (3.93)        22.56        (1.33)        (3.32)        24.95        (1.01)        (2.19)        28.52        (1.17)        (2.59)
22        23.56        (1.35)        (4.17)        23.43        (1.17)        (3.41)        28.11        (1.40)        (2.33)        29.05        (0.98)        (2.57)
33        26.41        (1.17)        (4.44)        27.54        (1.23)        (3.29)        30.70        (1.08)        (2.22)        32.08        (1.35)        (2.54)
44        28.12        (1.66)        (4.14)        31.95        (1.54)        (3.40)        34.45        (1.11)        (1.95)        37.06        (1.42)        (2.34)
55        32.60        (1.61)        (4.14)        34.75        (0.87)        (3.50)        36.71        (1.29)        (1.80)        39.31        (1.14)        (2.05)
66        35.87        (1.49)        (3.75)        36.90        (1.80)        (3.58)        39.96        (1.36)        (1.62)        39.31        (1.04)        (2.17)
77        38.45        (1.78)        (3.98)        40.38        (1.82)        (3.59)        42.93        (1.33)        (1.52)        40.89        (1.60)        (2.11)
88        41.18        (1.76)        (3.66)        43.40        (1.75)        (3.55)        45.21        (1.24)        (1.57)        44.21        (1.78)        (2.11)
99        45.63        (2.11)        (3.43)        46.51        (1.79)        (3.33)        48.38        (1.56)        (1.59)        51.48        (1.77)        (1.82)
aa        49.13        (2.04)        (3.22)        48.99        (1.96)        (3.16)        50.56        (1.56)        (1.34)        51.48        (1.77)        (1.82)
bb        51.86        (1.92)        (2.98)        50.94        (2.14)        (3.03)        53.11        (1.67)        (1.34)        53.62        (1.69)        (1.50)
cc        54.81        (1.85)        (2.50)        54.06        (2.01)        (2.77)        56.20        (1.42)        (0.83)        59.75        (1.49)        (0.63)
dd        57.36        (2.01)        (2.17)        57.28        (1.76)        (2.19)        59.14        (1.59)        (0.54)        65.91        (1.23)          0.51
ee        60.86        (1.60)        (1.54)        60.09        (1.60)        (1.98)        62.33        (1.38)          0.24        68.20        (1.20)          0.91
ff        63.73        (1.34)        (0.56)        64.02        (1.24)        (1.09)        64.49        (1.05)          0.66        68.20        (1.20)          0.91

Dynamic range of the screen is ratio of brightest and darkest color that it can display:

  • Kindle 4 = 3.57
  • Kindle 3 = 3.52
  • Kindle 2 = 2.84
  • Kindle 1 = 2.39

As you can see, Kindle 3 and Kindle 4 have very similar response curves and dynamic ranges, even despite the fact that I’ve heavily used my Kindle 3 (Keyboard) during the last year, while Kindle 4 is brand new. Perhaps if I had a specimen of unused Kindle Keyboard, measurements would be even closer. On the other hand measurements of Kindle 2 and Kindle 1 are very different from K3/K4. According to Amazon these devices use different screen technology and it shows. These results are also very much in line with my rough DSLR measurements from last year. Kindle 1 supports only 8 shades or gray (as opposed to 16 in later models) and it can be seen in a non-linear character or its transfer curve.

Bottom line: Kindle 4 and Kindle 3 have very similar screens to the point of being identical. While point is the same in Kindle 2 and Kindle 3/4, but Kindle 2 has lighter darks. Kindle 1 has lighter whites but also even lighter darks than Kindle 2.

A Hybrid E-Ink and LCD Screen in the Works?

So, one way to stop the e-ink vs. LCD war is to put both of them in one device.  Apparently, Apple (NASDAQ:APPL) has such a device in the works.

This is one of those things I’m going to have to actually see to grasp exactly how this can be done.  Comparing a Kindle e-ink display and an iPhone’s LCD display is like comparing apples to oranges.  They are so different.  They each have different functions and the Kindle is designed just for reading.  Sometimes it is good to escape internet and games, and just read.

From what I understand, the user will be able to switch between the iPhone 4 display and an e-ink display depending on their needs.  So, in theory, you could use the Kindle Application on your iPhone, and it would be more Kindle like than than the current version that is on the iPhone.  If you can use that application, it would still allow you to download and purchase books from the Kindle Store.

So, could this development kill the Kindle if it went into production?  Probably not.  Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) could either make a rival Kindle device, or they can focus on the Kindle software platform and e-book sales.  E-book sales are getting better and better all the time.  Especially with authors writing books exclusively for the e-book platform. Another key factor is cost.  Many people can’t afford an iPad yet.  Even an iPhone costs more than the Kindle does.

E Ink Does Well This Holiday Season

It’s possible that this goes without saying, but the huge jump in sales of the Kindle has resulted in some major benefits for their screen producer, E Ink Holdings.  E Ink, for those who are unfamiliar, is the company that currently drives the eReader market with its durable, low-power, highly readable displays, and is used on both Amazon’s offering as well as the original Barnes & Noble Nook.

Projections regarding E Ink Holdings are indicating that the company is likely to post better than expected profits for the fourth quarter of 2010, in spite of the fact that earlier estimates already placed them at a 60% improvement over the previous quarter.  Overall, it’s been a good year for them, it seems.

Even better, for E Ink and for fans of eReaders in general, 2011 is looking like it will be anything but a plateau for the industry.  Analysts are anticipating as many as 22 million sales this year, up from slightly fewer than 11 million in 2010.  It only makes sense.  Sales are up, prices are down, selections are only getting better, and people are starting to finally get over the idea that Tablet PCs will negatively affect the eReader market.  E Ink themselves claim that one in ten consumers already have an eReading device, which is definitely a persuasive factor for many potential customers.  A large user group, few of whom have complaints, means a reliable product, after all.

Moving forward with existing screen technology isn’t all that e Ink has going for them, either.  Recently, especially since the introduction of the Nook Color, people are thinking that color displays on eReaders are just ever so slightly over the horizon.  I’d tend to agree, personally.  The offering along those lines from E Ink is their Triton display: a color active matrix display that uses the proven tech we know and love, adapted to show us thousands of entertaining color combinations.

This, assuming it takes off in the face of competition from other widely anticipated display products such as Mirasol’s product, will allow eReaders using the new display to take on things like textbooks, cook books, books for kids, and any number of other types of books traditionally relying on colorful illustration.  Is anybody else looking forward to digital copies of Where’s Waldo?  I know I am!

For now, the Kindle is doing amazingly with the E Ink Pearl screen technology and manages to stay consistently on top of the market.  The screen clarity and contrast is unmatched, so far as I’ve experienced, and it lends itself to battery life that is almost too good to be believed compared to anything we’ve seen previously.  Also, it doesn’t hurt that it’s a non-backlit option for reading which most (though yes, I know not all) people who give it a chance tend to appreciate.  It’ll be fun to watch where things go from here, but it’s hard to deny that they earned the success they’ve gotten so far, or that things are looking up for the very near future.

Hoping for a Kindle Color?

For the first time in a while, we have some real hope for a decent full-color eReader in the near future.  Sure, the NOOKcolor will be out soon, but nobody really cares that much.  E Ink, maker of the current amazingly popular screens for the Kindle and nook, has announced a new display technology that they have dubbed Triton.

E Ink Triton is a color active matrix imaging film that manages to retain all of the benefits of their previous products(such as the monochrome E Ink Pearl screen found in the current generation of the Kindle) without limiting the display options when it comes to illustration.  Users can expect to retain the direct sunlight readability, quick page turns, amazing battery life, and durability that they have come to expect and hopefully quite a bit more, depending on how companies like Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) manage to adapt the technology for improved user experience.

This comes with the usual cautions, of course, before people get too excited.  Namely, this is not an LCD screen.  This means that you cannot expect everything to work precisely the same way a standard computer monitor would.  You will not be watching video on it, nor will there be a back-light.  It is an amazing leap forward for eReading technology, not just another potential selling point for entries into the tablet race.  Reflecting on that point, if this works well and is adopted for use in something like the Kindle, there will really no longer be any grounds for complaints about usability from people wanting anything short of a full-function tablet.

This advance bodes well for the future of eReading and will definitely tie in well to such things as the recent push by Amazon to get periodicals published on the Kindle platform.  I know that we won’t be seeing a color Kindle by the end of this year, but now that it appears to be a practical inevitability, the possibilities are abundant.

Color Kindle Rumour

There’s a great deal of talk floating around lately about the potential for a color Kindle device by the end of this year.  It’s always been something of a given that a color display with the positive attributes of eInk would be developed and put into production at some point, but few believed it could realistically happen before the end of the year.  Now, however, Mirasol Displays is claiming to have a working 5.7″ color eInk-like display in production and on order to a number of clients with delivery expected toward the end of this year and the beginning of next. Further comments revealed that while the earliest adopters will be eReader producers, the fact that these new screens can display 30 frames per second, operate in full sunlight, and and support touchscreens makes them perfect for cellphones and other portable technologies.  If these screens live up to their potential and affordable production is already beginning, this could well breathe even greater life into products like the Kindle, allowing them to retain all their current usability and address naysayer complaints about refresh rate and monochrome displays all at once.  All that remains to be seen is where things go from here in terms of price, availability, and whether or not Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) is among the early adopters.

A New Kindle Rival by Kakai in its Early Stages

The small business start up, Kakai has revealed plans for a dual screen device that will rival Kindle for the classroom. This article from Electronista provides a brief overview of the device.  It is not a sure thing yet and it isn’t projected to be available for demonstrations for several months. It will be powered by the Linux operating system and feature LCD display instead of the e-ink technology that the Kindle uses.  It is said to be both a notepad and e-reader in one with web access and easier textbook downloads.  A notepad would be useful for students because it provides an easy way to take notes on the book they are studying.

Overall, the Linux operating system has been a computer techie’s domain because of its fully open source nature.  It hasn’t really taken off in the mainstream consumer population.  There really aren’t many programs compatible with the operating system at this time.  However, it might be a totally different ballgame on an e-reader system.

The Kindle can be quite clunky at times with slow page turns and download speeds.  However, the Kindle uses e-ink which supposedly does not cause eye strain like the LCD display does.  So that will be an issue that will be interesting to watch in terms of whether it plays any factor in which device is better for educational purposes.

Finding a Booklight that is Right for You

After searching for the best book light to use with the Kindle, I came across the Kandle, by Ozeri.  According to the product description, the Kandle can be used on other e-reader devices, regular books and as a free standing night light.  The Kandle has pivoting arms for customized page viewing and also includes lights that are distributed evenly to prevent eyestrain and glare.  It had the best reviews overall.  However, there are many others to choose from.  Other book light suggestions include the e-Luminator2 Booklight for Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation and Mighty Bright XtraFlex2 Clip On Light.

After looking at the Kindle forums regarding booklights for the Kindle, I found out that there are a lot of Kindle users who want a backlight option to be added to the next generation of the Kindle.  Booklights in general have not had top rated reviews because of their battery drain and instability, as well as their cumbersome nature.  Amazon claims that their e-paper technology is easier on the eyes and allows longer, more comfortable reading.  The response has been mixed about this assumption.  Users have claimed they have no trouble reading on their computers or iPhone.  Amazon could install a backlight function just to have the option available.  That would put the choice to read with or without a backlight in the hands of the users and not Amazon.

Reading the Kindle Can Help You Sleep

For those who enjoy reading in bed, there is a major reason why you should reach for a Kindle instead of an iPad.  Studies show that reading the iPad in bed affects sleeping habits according to a recent article from the Los Angeles Times.  The Kindle and other e-book readers such as Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Sony’s e-reader use e-ink.  E-ink technology is supposed to simulate the process of reading a page from a “real” book.

However, the iPad uses an LCD screen that emits light like on a computer screen or a television does.  On one hand, you can save buying a light and read the iPad under the covers while your significant other, if you have one, sleeps.  As you might know, it is recommended that you take a break from the computer or TV before bed so the brain can prepare itself for rest.  Since we hold an iPad in such close proximity to our faces, the effect of the artificial light is much greater than from watching a TV across the room.  The same idea goes for using the iPad.  The Los Angeles Times article says that exposure to such bright and artificial light can slow the production of melatonin, which helps us sleep.

So, curl up with your Kindle, and the reading light if you need it and enjoy some nightly reading pleasure.